Thursday, September 2, 2010

Three Things You Should Know About Neonatologists

If you have a micropreemie (a baby born before 26 weeks gestation- yes, that is correct, the medical definition of micropreemie has to do with gestational age, NOT being "less than 2 lb"), there is no doubt that your newborn will be heading to the NICU. Not only will he be needing the care of a NICU, he will likely need the care that can only be provided by a level III NICU. Level III NICUs are typically found in large teaching hospitals often affiliated with major universities. These NICUs are the ones that handle the babies who need the most critical, specialized care.

During your stay in the NICU, you will likely deal with three different levels of doctors:

  1. Neonatologists are pediatricians who have completed higher training in the very specialized field of caring for, literally, "newborns". Rather than practicing in the broader field of "pediatrics", these doctors have chosen to focus their careers on a more narrow population. They care for preemies and other newborns born with conditions beyond the usual scope of generalized pediatrics.
  2. Fellows are doctors who have completed all requirements for being a full-fledged doctor of _______ (insert specialty here), but who are pursuing further training to narrow down their focus even more. In the NICU, these doctors are pediatricians who are working on becoming neonatologists.
  3. Residents are doctors who have done the "school" part of being a doctor and are now working on the "hospital" part of finishing it all up. Usually, these are men and women who think they may be interested in working in that field (in this case, neonatology) down the pike. At this stage, they are at the point of finishing up their program in pediatrics; should they choose to become neonatologists, there would be further training to do later on.
This is a simplified version, to be sure. (Please don't judge me, medical professionals- I realize this is a "cliff's notes" version of how it works!) I met wonderful doctors from all three categories during our 100+ day stay in the NICU but, I must confess, I have a soft spot for fellows. I think that's because it was the fellow in the room who helped me keep a clear head when all things went crazy in the OB/ICU...

What three things can you tell us about this week?

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